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Benjamin Busch; Brian Castner; Jake Tapper Education. (2012) 2012 Miami Book Fair Panel on Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Us 28, Afghanistan 11, Iraq 5, U.s. 4, Vietnam 3, Mcchrystal 2, Ptsd 2, The City 2, Pakistan 2, Kirkuk 2, Abc 2, Csi 1, Pentagon 1, The Tech 1, Benjamin Bush 1, Jake Tapper 1, War 1, Benjamin Busch 1, Bryan Caster 1, Ryan 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Benjamin Busch; Brian Castner; Jake Tapper  Education.   
   (2012) 2012 Miami Book Fair Panel on Iraq and Afghanistan.  

    January 13, 2013
    3:00 - 4:00pm EST  

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these two member together symbolically succeeded. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> and now from miami book fair international, a few authors discuss various aspects of warfare and the impact of military action in iraq and afghanistan. this is about an hour. .. miami. >> first up, jake tapper, senior white house correspondent for abc news, joining abc in 2003 and reported extensively on war from the u.s. and the middle east. the outpost: untold story of american valor," eye-opening account from the deadliest battle in afghanistan. please welcome jake. [applause] benjamin bush, actor, photographer, director, and a marine corp. offers who served
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two combat tours in ira his memoir, "dust to dust" weave together his childhood and training. please welcome benjamin busch. >> and bryan caster in has had three tour of duties in iraq. when he return home to his wife and family, he says he began to struggle with an unshakable feeling of fear and survivor's guilt. the long walk, the story of war and the life that follows shows us the toll that war takes on the men and women fighting it. so please walk, brian caster in. >> thank you so much. >> i will just sit. first of all, it's a real honor
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to be here at the miami book fair. i want to thank everybody involved, especially mitchell kaplan, who got me involved. it's a true honor to be on a panel with two veterans, benjamin, who serve in the marines, and brian in the air force. i don't belong on a panel with people who actually lived through it, although my book is about war as well. last through, there are other veterans in my book are actually here. stan and dave roller are in the back there, and thank you for being here. means a lot to me that you're here. [applause] >> one of the things i'm asked is why did i write a book about this one combat outpost in afghanistan? it's not really my area of expertise. i'm a political reporter, the senior white house correspondent
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for abc news. the answer is i feel like i at any time pick combat outpost quieting to write about. i felt like come about outpost keeting picked me. on october 3, 2009, i was in the recovery room of the hospital with my dear wife, jennifer, and i was holding our day-old son jack, and everything was fine. she had a baby so that's why we were there. and out of the corner of my eye on the television, i heard a story that was just harrowing from this remote outpost, that i'd never heard of, at the bottom of three steep mountains, 14 miles from the pakistan border, 53 u.s. troops facing an onslaught of up to 400 taliban. a horrific day. i held my son and heard about how eight other sons were taken from us that day, and i just wanted to know more.
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and i couldn't get it out of my head. the coverage was all along the lines of, why would anybody but an outpost at the bottom of three steep mountains 14 miles from the pakistan border. nobody ever answered the question, and when the military investigated it, they just said, yeah, there was no strategic purpose for that 0 to be there, sorry, and moved on. and there was -- i was haunted by it. i wanted to know more, solve this mystery. why would anybody put a camp there? and it became a mystery i had to solve. and then the more i found out about the outpost and the more i found out about the attack on the outpost, i heard just some amazing feats of heroism, all agent of the men who died, died either trying to engage the enemy or trying to save one of their fellow soldiers. every single one of the eight who were killed. and their stories were just never really told. so it became a project that i
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wanted to tell. i not a book to write about it. it would originally be called "enemy in the wire" and just about this last troop and their experience in this attack. but then i started hearing from troops who had served at combat outpost-keeting at other times in it's three and a half year. got a call from a former intelligence officer, ross, who was with 371 cav. he wanted me to make the book more comprehensive and tell the stories of other troops who served bravely and sacrificed so much. lieutenant colonel joe, and possess human mouse medal of honor winner, and a kid from oklahoma who gave his thrive stave an afghan soldier. and then i heard from dave roller, he serve with the 191 cav, and they actually had a very successful year at that
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outpost. started horrifically. started with the death of two brave men, ryan and dave, the commander. as the year went on, they had a lot of success reaching out to the afghans and it wasn't only an just post that was story of failure. it was an outpost that for some time in 2007 to 2008 was a success. so the more these troops contacted me and toll me their stories, the more this became a real calling for me to write. felt like i had been slapped out of my slumber. i'd been covering the war in afghanistan from the comfort of the north lawn of the white house, and troop levels and numbers that really seemed rather meaningless and cold. i wouldn't -- been covering the fights between mcchrystal and barack obama, but it wasn't until i embarked upon the
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project that i came to any understanding of what it is our brave troops, men like those on the panel with me, go through, what they sacrifice for us. not just them but their wifes and their moms and their friends, and what we as the nation don't recognize enough, which is that we're incredibly blessed to have people like this, doing this for us, serving like this for us, and their stories are actually -- even though we in the media don't cover them all that much -- certain lit not as much as they should be -- that's because the american people don't generally want to hear them and the war is a bummer. these stories are very inspiring, and what people do for one another, and the strength and resolve and bigness of heart that our troops have, even the ones who make bad mistakes and even the ones who
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screw up here and there -- that's certainly all part of the become. at it something that we as nation should be thankful for. so that's my eyes were opened and that's why i wrote the book. i would like to take one second if i can before handing over the mic to my friend here. just one brief part of the book if that's okay. you know how the book ends, which is that the outpost is overrun and the u.s. boats back the taliban and ultimately the u.s. destroys combat out post quieting which so many soldiers died to build. so this is not a spoiler alert because you know how it ends. but this is a part that mean the most. >> is was dark now. special forces troops had arrived, and were clearing canvas village and reinforcing observation post. >> this at the end of the
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battle. >> captain stoney went up to the barracks outside which he saw lieutenant's silhouette. you have done an incredible job, he told him. i'm the commander year. >> you've don't an incredible job, for disrepeated. not many places to sleep in post keeting. october in afghanistan. it was chilly. some of the troops were wearing on t-shirts and shorts, have been woken up suddenly that morning and later having lost all their clothing to the tea's fires. bodies, living one, were scattered throughout the area. red platoon troops crashed, and the bastard plat -- platoon slept together, captain for
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diswalked outside of the barracks. the dying fires crackled in nearby buildings. then for disherd -- heard a sound. someone was singing, i ain't seen the none since i don't know when. fordyce walked into the bear racks. he shook his head. the white noise from the radio was interrupted by a squawk. he thought about the soldiers who had been killed, his men, just one night before they'd all gone to bed thinking they would soon bet out of this cursed valleys but the violence got from first. [applause] >> will not be reflected, we do appreciate when serious journalists takes our stories and brings them home.
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for some of us, never have the chance to articulate those feelings and thoughts and observations. i didn't set out to write a war memoir. and i don't think it is in the end, dust-to-dust is about our place in time, our place in the landscape, but because i went to war, it becomes part of that journey, and necessarily it's part of our nature, unfortunately, this weakness for conflict we seem to tend towards, no matter how enlightened we become or how far we have progressed as people, no matter how much hope we have, that discussion can help us avoid the absolute and most definitive inability to articulate, you know, concessions, which is war.
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so, i'm going read a piece from this which puts is it in place. to put war in context, not to describe war so much. as being part of our history, and for us all, especially for veterans, obviously it's part of our individual history. we have confronted this thing as many of us for our sins, set out to seek. this is from the chapter, ash. and just read this section: during my first tour i convinced myself i was invulnerable, i was not careless but was not afraid because fearlessness was required of me. the marines assumed an acceptance of risk. we became a customed to our endangerment. when we took our firs casualty we were at a loss to believe and
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it went back to our principals as if nothing happened. when i deployed, my family worried, keeping their worry from he as much as they could. my second tour was different. i expected to be killed in ram mad di. after i was rounded it was worse for my wife and parents. their imagination, my vulnerability exposed, but the life in immortality and the certainty of doom produced the same lack of anxiety in me. on june 16, we were going south across the railroad tracks, a routine operation in con justification with other combat engineers. i'll just talk about this section. i had friends at ramadi, the commander of a company of marines, and on june 16th, -- this went on what would be considered a common mission.
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we went out with combat engineers on a search and detonation mission. ramadi -- nets spread out to be cleaned. the people didn't mix with the city to the north. a mere 200 meeters away on the other side of the tracks. we never knew who would we would find there. the entire settlement sometimes abandoned to children and dogs, sometimes flush with men. we called it springfield because we thought it had a population of characters to rival that of the simpsons. i accompanied the infantry led bay captain who had become a friend it was a security patrol to do local census and questionnaire while engineers look for rounds to be used against us later. while we patrolled through the town we found it almost empty
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again. the streets vacant. dogs violent. to take the edge off, the captain and i exchanged lines from monty python and the holy grail. one of us would begin, you're in great peril. i don't think i was, yes, you were in terrible pearl. let me go back and face the peril. oh, no, it's too perilous. we had a similar sense of human and like-minded how to approach the city. the day felt long. would send the night protecting my friends while we waited for a recovery vehicle to come. i wrote home, there were too many memorial ceremonies this month and i attended them all. present. the night of the holy day, and i could hear the voice from the most, an exhale of language that i cannot interpret but feel may understand. a random deliberateness, blind
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the world but not cloyding with it, both of us recognizing what is solid and what is not. it's the same world to men and to baaths. they hunt insects that hunt us and hunt each other. everything is similar. everyone is hunting. i had moved through the dark, defining the grainy glean glow of nation vision goggles. i had been out all day on patrol thinking i wouldn't need them. you always bring all your gear because you never know how the day will end. you have them strapped to your helmet and there's no depth perception and objects appear huddled. you can't see the dust but you know it's there. something explodes. try run through a city like that. the phosphorus tracers to bright to your eyes. you don't know how long you'll have to stay on the roof you
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found yourself on. ordered the family into a room beneath you. you're out of water. you hope the rest of your unit know it's you on the roof. someone is shooting. watch the tracers, keep low. you may be there all night. you may be there for the rest of your life. you watch the windows for nip you don't know. you don't know anyone. thanks to the rules of engagement, pilot identification is reasonable certainty. you're in urban sprawl and your friends' vehicle is ahead, tires burning, the marines are throwing sand on the wreckage. the tires cannot be smothered. you can smell the smoke, and all the while it isn't your house you have invaded. the family in the room beneath you is waiting for you to leave. someone is still shooting. you are not sure, and the shimmering imagination of night
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vision equipment, if you can see something moving. that can't be positively identified. you hold your fire. you hold your position. that can be precision, -- that can be your profession. you don't want to let anyone down. >> have gone out into other peoples lives. we gathered our wreckage and dead some someone who lived there filling the holes in the road left by the bombs left for us, for 215 days we threw ourselves at the city and walked back into hurricane point. headquarters 100 meters away, our marines read our reports and they passed between us without noticing anyone. so, i go into that with the book because war is where i arrived after a life essentially of chasing endangerment to a certain extent. the uncertainty of it all fascinated me, as does my environment, just by nature.
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so the book ends up being very much about our landscape, how we perceive it as fascinating in our youth, and how over time, it changes. the same substance, stone, rock, water, wood, guess from being the unknown, worthy of curiosity, to at some point being a threat, and the natural defiance of us living our lives, which is in defiance of our mortality, all the way. from childhood lower, immortal, to our elder years, where we become the archive, where we become the thing which holds so many people we have lost and is what survives. memory is what survives, and within that memory, the afterlife of so much. so, thank you. [applause]
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>> good afternoon. i'd also like to thank the organizers of the miami book fair for having me. when i started writing my book a year or two ago i certainly did not expect i would end up here, or seated on a panel with these gentlemen. i think everything we have heard so far is a lot of war stories represent a need to explain. why was there an outpost where there should never have been an outpost? what is the context within my own war experience, who was i before i went to war and then how did that affect me when i was actually over there? i wrote a memoir -- i didn't realize i was writing a memoir. i didn't realize that was going to be the title they put out on it and the shelf they put it on. i was so naive about the publishing world. i thought i was just writing a story of what happened to me,
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and some of my friends that i included in it. and really, it was to explain to myself, how did i end up like this after my tours in iraq, explain to my children, this is why daddy is crazy. print out one copy and put it on the shelf and save it for when they're older. i think there's really three kinds of war books. i think there's the top level explanation of the policy, you know. and john keegan writes, world war ii, that's what happened in world war ii. and i wasn't in a position to write that. and then there's the really detailed recreation of what happened in this specific time or place, which is what jake did, which is a gift that i was not able to do. my memories of my tour were so fragments, they were very specific on particular days, and
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then there's the month of september, 2006, i don't really have much there. i could not have recreated that if i wanted to. so instead what i did, i wrote the third kind of book, which is where you try to get the feeling right. what does it feel like to be there? what does it feel like to come back? feel like to get shot at? what does it feel like to come home from that and be walking through the airport and realize that you're thinking about who you're going to shoot. to get out of the room in case something goes wrong. to think about driving down the road and looking for ieds on the road or be putting your son in his hockey gear and realizing that as your putting your son in his hockey equipment, you're actually putting him in the bomb suit. and you're sending him off to work on an ied. what does that feel like?
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that's the book i tried to write, and i had a completely average experience. so, here's what my average experience was. i was in the air force, dod officer -- dod is explosive ordinance disposal. the bomb squad. we are all army, navy, marine core, air force, we go to the same school, we're enter changeable so i was assigned to army units, maybe guys to the me recents marines, everybody is mixed up and work together, so i did a tour in '05 and a tour in '06, and our normal day is you're there at the base and you get called and take apart one, two, three, ieds a day, take apart bombs in kirkuk we had a lot of car bombs. we had two a day that came every afternoon. out of the 50 something we had over the course of those couple weeks, we managed to take apart
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one. 49 of them detonated. so then there's that other part of the job, which is being a little bit like csi. you go and look at the escape and -- look at the scene try to figure out the target and what kind of bomb, but you just collected all this evidence day-by-day and put it on a shelf and put it in a report and nobody seemed to care and it was groundhog day and you did that every day until you went home. so then your mission was, if we can't stop the car bombs, if we can't stop the ieds from being put out, and if all we're doing is reacting like the fire department, then our job is, everybody comes home. all 30 of us went together and all 30 of us kill come back. so i managed to do that. my whole unit, we all came back together. i was very lucky. when i got home i also had a completely average experience. i would say. and i'm not comfortable speaking for any particular veteran, everybody fought their own war.
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everybody saw something different. everybody reacts to it differently. my personal experience i had trouble thinking about anything other than grief, than thinking about the fear. the fear and the grief were as much about what kind of person am i, that came home, as fear of being in any particular surrounding. i knew i was safe in my head. i gist didn't know i was safe in my gut. so, how to kind of process that and deal with it. part of the grief is you come home and i got out of the military. i only did eight years, but your friends go back and just becausor war is over, doesn't mean they're war is over. so you worry for them, and you're helpless. on wednesday i was at the pentagon. i was lucky enough to be there when a colleague of mine, technical sergeant joe, got a silver star for his actions in afghanistan.
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he was clearing the landing zone. a marine had been hurt. they called in the med-evac. helicopter comes in. he is trying to clear the area to make sure the helicopter is not going to land on an ied. he steps on one, lost both legs and his left arm. okay? so, when i say i am lucky, and i had an average experience, joe was my reference. i don't want to speak for joe. he might say he was lucky. he had good people there that put three up tourniquets on himd got him through it. we have a memorial in florida where the school us, where at the tech goes to school. the memorial is for all four services and it's everyone that died in the line of duty since world war ii, essentially, since the school opened. so we put more names on the memorial last year than we have put on since 1945. and all told, since 9/11, it's
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120. now, 120 -- that number might feel low compared to the thousands that we have lost overall in the decade of war and as jake mentioned it, what do the anybodies really matter? those are 120 friends, brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, and we're such a small community that those are 120 people fairly important to me. so, that's the grief that you try to process, and the fear, and your open fear of death and all of those kind of things. and i don't have a good answer about what was resolved there. took me an entire book to try to figure that out and i'm not sure i did by the end of it. so in my book i tried to weave those two threads. i wove the thread of the war ask the thread of coming home, and i kind of weave them at the same time because it all felt like it was happening at the same time. so i'm going to -- if i didn't
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use up too much of my time i'm going to read from the beginning of the book, to maybe give us a sense of kind of how its feels. what i learned is that you helped me and for the ropes you understand is a read. my list is small. one best friend but not another. your wife but not your mother. those that you think will get it, will understand. and now i'm telling you i'm crazy and i don't know why. the second thing we should know about me is that don't know how
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to fix it or control it or endure from one moment to the next. the crazy is winning. so i run. i run every day, sometimes twice a day. out the front door of my peaceful suburban home, past sticky black sewage and motor oil and bloody swamps of trash and debris, ankle deep, filling the roads, sidewalks, shop steps. i run through dust clouds blown in off the desert, i run past the screaming women that never shut up. don't shut up now. i should have made them shut up when i had the chance. i run as fast as i can, as long as i can. my feet hitting the pavement in a fearless rhythm all along the river near my home. i run in the hottest part of the day, before afternoon blaze. the heat of the black asphalt in the summer sun rising through my shoes, into my feet. i speed up but the crazy feeling is winning, it overwhelms.
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sweat pours down my eyes, my face, chalk white skin and brown dried blood from head to toe. did jeff have any skin left to show his mother? i run every day on the road and along the river stretching to my left. occasionally seeing road trees in the sunshine and the light breeze off the water. my teeth are rotting out of my head. my throat closes. my left eye twitches. the detonation rains concrete chunks on my head, splits my ears, and peppers the truck with molten steel. i reach for my rifle. i run down the home outside my home to the hum of humvee engines over a flat desert. the crazy in my chest is full to bursting but the protests of my overworked heart and lung tamps
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down. the crazy feeling never leaves but the run makes parts of the body scream louder. it's in the box. why not, the foot in the box? i run and i don't want to stop. the adrenaline has been building all day and it finally has release. the boiler overflows. shaking arms pump and swing. when i stop the crazy feeling refloods my sworn heart, lungs, reins, my eye twitches speed up again. my head swims and swirls. helicopters and dust fade. i put my rifle down, shrug off my vest. sweat wipes cleans rickys head and jeff and kermit and, and, -- my knee is screaming louder than the women mitchell ragged breath shakes my chest. i run and run and run, and in the end try to pound out of my head what once was. thank you. [applause]
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>> i suppose now would be the time for questions. people can line up or whatever. >> we heard about the discussion between general mcchrystal and general allen while commanding 60,000 or or 70,000 of our troo. how do you react to those stories? >> do you want to go first? >> the question was, what is our reaction to the most recent scandals involving high-level military commanders, and i got to say, from my level, i never -- i was never touched by
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the politics of almost anything, except for the fact i was sent the war which was the byproduct of politics. the soldier this tool of the state and is made to be bow -- be betrayed. if you walk into the news unwittingly, that's what you discover. don't know that policy was directly affected on the ground by these actions. so, i guess i'm a split opinion. as a veteran i don't see how it affected the war. as a voter, well, it's all just a little embarrassing. >> i think the only thing i'd add to that -- i guess i should reinforce the idea that the policy just had so little to do with the time you're there. my war was so small, it was the 30 guys, the city of kirkuk, getting everybody home safe.
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we didn't sit around the fire at night and talk about which president was disappointing us or which general was disappointing us. general petraeus was one of the commanders when i was there and he was beloved. at the time. so, i just -- i feel almost -- i feel so disconnected from the question almost because what i did and why we did it was never based on a speech from washington or somebody's affair or not. it was love of the man next to you, and it's a cliche that guys jump out of the trench and run forward because of the guy to their left and right, but just because it's a cliche doesn't keep it from being true. so questions like that, i focused on he small, small part i could do something about. >> i'd echo that. the war is as small as the war for you. it's not how did you get there
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it's there you are, for almost every troop. and general expressing an opinion is maybe something we could use more of. what that point is it something we can't gauge. i think overall worry is if somebody is hiding so much, how much are the hiding? how much of everything is true because its an level of such high discussion. where the effect is you have to diffuse the bomb and keep 150 marines from being dead that day. does he notice? does anyone really notice? it comes down to the warrior detachment and living in a surreality, how much of the war is real to anyone not actively engaged in it on the ground. >> i'm not a veteran. but i see myself as something of
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an advocate for the veterans of this one out post, and i want to read this pass yang, if you keep general petraeus hijinx in mind. this is what dave was going through in afghanistan. the mountain the men of the first platoon were getting used to a lifestyle even more spartan than the one down the hill. heightened had become a relative term. he was still on his first bar of soap. the troops bathed in a mountain stream. that part was kind of fun. he rotated his socks, shirts and uniforms on a continuing basis. the i it was common to see soldiers sticking any spoons they found for later use, or licking forks clean so other soldiers could use them. there were no longer any
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permanent stationed there, first lieutenant candace mathis and her group was not replaced. the first platoon troops had not seen a woman in months. it was an odd sensation as if men were the only ones left on the planet. whenever a female apache pilot flew in the area, soldiers would crowd around the hear radio to hear her voice. that's what dave rolein and the guys were going through. a few years later, only general petraeus can say what he was going through with his biographer he brought to kabul, but i'm embarrassed as somebody who knows these guys, that anybody would be living that kind of life while our troops are enduring what they're enduring? that's not even -- that's just about life.
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so, i'm embare wassed and outraged -- embarrassed and outraged. [applause] >> i'd like to ask the warriors the question of whether your book has been welcomed by the military and used in the services helping those who have returned, traumatized from post traumatic stress disorder, really work through some of what they are feeling and going through, which i think could be very valuable, and also i think it's fantastic that those of us who have not had access to your experience, really being brought in because it may help the nation be more thoughtful about entering wars in the future.
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>> i'll go quick. my biggest worry when i wrote the book is what would my brothers in arms think about it. and i didn't sweat the "new york times" book review too much or would i be invited, but if that went perfectly and if my bros said you did something wronger, you're taking advantage, if that was the reaction i would want to fine every copy and burn it. fortunately it has been the exact opposite, and the reaction i've gotten is -- other eot techs telling me they bought a copy -- actually they don't tell me they bought a copy but their fathers say their son gave them a copy and said, this explains me. and having that kind of reaction is not why i wrote it. i wrote it to explain it to
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myself. but if my experience helps inform somebody else's, that's the most amazing compliment. so i count myself very fortunate that the reaction has been far more than i deserve. >> my book -- like i said, it's not war memoir pure but it is about the journey that the child takes towards endangerment. war being the most dramatic outcome of that for the most part, and what i found is a number of mothers, especially, some fathers, and wives of veterans, whether they'd been combat veterans or simply they served in the military at some point in their lives. this informs something that those people haven't been able to yet articulate to them, which i think is really interesting,
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that -- i mean, we're all different children. but there's a similar inclination. some of us are made of urges, which in my case took me from being a studio in college to being an infantry over in the united states marine corps to war though, hbo series as an actor, to writing poetry and crafting a book, which tries to describe our place in the universe, and war is part of that story. but it's really this succession of choices that we all make. and how it becomes who we are. so, i've had -- heard from people who read this and i'm excited to hear what they say. it's a very visual book and far more a portrait of my perspective than a portrait of anything else. the people in my family are rarely mentioned because it's
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all about what i see, and i try to let the reader watch the world with my eyes and hopefully the things i'm talking about become the things they know. when i talk about water, it's their river. when i talk about the woods, it's the one they know. and that's what makes this book talk to the bigger things. that it also speaks to the military experiences which are direct. i'm always interested because my marines patrolled the same road i did, but i was looking at different things. and their story of the same walk would be fascinating to me, because we all cue on what fascinates us from our baggage. so, strange answer to your very important question, but for some people, it does kind of explain that untested child's --
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unearned confidence in being fascinated by uncertainty. and what sometimes that quest leads to. >> if i could just interject one minute. because it's not the nature of a soldier or marine to complain or to state anything publicly that can get them in trouble with people who used to be their bosses. we have a public health crisis on our hand with post traumatic stress disorder in this country, and it needs to be acknowledged by our leaders. there's a huge backlog at the veterans hospital and hospitals throughout the country, generally speaking people at the v.a. are good people trying to do the best they can without massive salaries. but we're in a crisis and two million people who served in iraq and afghanistan, according to a study, 25% have ptsd. and those are the ones who acknowledge they have ptsd.
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very small percentage of. the seek treatment. that treatment is often not even that good or effective. s'. >> a lot of it is medicinal. >> and this isn't going away. these are people that are walking our streets that need help, and they have those problems because we sent them to war. and so i just want to say -- i touch on this in the book. one survivor of the attack, ed falker, jr., had ptsd and ultimately overdoses after the attack. he was in the v.a., and two days after his overdose, the veterans hospital called to tell him he was late for his appointment. somebody needs to do something, and i know a lot of talk about this during election years. i hope it doesn't stop. >> that's backlog is actually only 50 years old because we never acknowledged that for
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vietnam. and the loss has been not just exponential but incredible. what we should have learned from the veterans of vietnam or what the veterans of vietnam told us, this is going to be bad ex-this whole thing in talking to veterans from that war, mostly because they're the ones i had access to. most 0 of o the world war ii veterans were no in my life. but they would ask, so how are you? how is the war with you? is what they were asking me. how are you, and i'd say, i'm fine. and that's not what they were asking. how is the war with you? and if i side aim fine, they said great, we'll give you 20 years. what do you mean? you know. it doesn't go anywhere. it's much like this book is about the childhood doesn't leave us. we cover it up with consequence
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and experience and time, but we carry it all, and that common trail that is us, our history, and so it's all there. when it chooses to reveal itself, when it chooses to find a way back to you, is the great unknown. that's the concern almost every veteran has. that's a piece i wrote for them for the daily, i talk about that, where it's -- these things weight, and sometimes you need a sense of larger context to realize how you have been really affected. you can hold yourself together for a very long time. people are very tough. we have a wonderful ability to repress. one of our greatest gifts, and we're built that way. we're built to be afraid for certain reasons, because it heightens your awareness and makes you ready to react. you can turn that off, too. you can say, thanks for the message, i understand.
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but you can also repress certain things for certain period of time to survive them. because you're not able to handle them at the time they occur. grief is like that. and i had that with my parents. the book was born out of my parents' death. i return from my second combat tour and my daughter was one year scold the day i got home she didn't know me, and within the year i lost both parents, and i just about had enough death. i think we kind of confronted each other, and i wasn't the one that left. shockingly enough. of all the people to go, i was the one that survived. and it was that confronting my parent's death when i realized my incredible ability to disbelieve that which is inevitable. the child disbelieves the mortality of their parents. if from our childhood but it doesn't leave us. we learn that it's wrong.
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we don't always believe it entirely. and it took awhile for me to kind of deal with that, and so who knows. who knows these things? i completely agree with jake, and i'm glad you bring visibility to that, because in your position especially, you're dealing with the very people who make that policy. so, embrace that in a veteran. ask for a story because a story really is a way of letting in of that fire out. >> first of all, thank you, all three of you, for being here. this is one of the most fascinating panels i've heard coming here the last three years. i want to ask about the decision to become a soldier and about the decision to put yourself in line where somebody else is kind of in charge of what you do and potentially your life and you
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have both spoken about the experiences you had there, and i wanted to ask how you -- how difficult it was, how easy it was to make that decision to become a soldier, to put yourself in line to go to war. i know that later in the afternoon, another former foreign correspondent, chris hedges, well be talking, and he has written a book. >> a genius. >> yeah. >> mr. tapper, i was hoping you could talk about the fact that we do have this volunteer armed forces, if that makes it more difficult to relate as a reporter their stories to the american people? >> do you want to start? >> i think that -- it's
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something like .5% of this country has served since 9/11. and as we know, many military communities are basically self-contained. so very few people feel part of these wars that we have been raging since 2001. in afghanistan and iraq, say nothing more of the larger global war on terror or whatever name it's going by today. that disconnect serves no one. it doesn't serve our policymakers, doesn't serve the troops or their families. i'm not saying that there should be construction or a war tax or anything, but it's not sustainable the way it is right now. one general in the book, who preferred to go on background,
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didn't use his name, said he hoped that my book would at least help some people understand why we shouldn't go to war so quickly. what it is that is being sacrificed. because he compared this -- this general, you'd know if i told you -- he felt like he were like the romans, hiring legionaires to fight our wars. completely separated. reporting on the wars, not having served, is not a problem because most of what i report on is not groups that i belong to. writing this book has helped me have a greater understanding and not just the differences between a first sergeant and a staff sergeant, or sergeant first class, but also just what it's like to be a soldier.
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i will never truly understand that but i have a much greater understanding of it. i do think that when our nation goes to war, i think the policymakers do so glibbly but all the debate is glib. flippant, and there's no resemblance to the reality of these men and women, and one of the reason is i wrote this book, because when this happened i had been reporting on stuff, war, debates. at that point i had never gone to afghanistan. now i have gone twice. i had gone to iraq because i didn't want to understand a little bit what was going on there but generally speaking, we go to war -- it's not we go to war too quickly. we go to war as a nation without understanding what it means. this little boy is not going to have a father. that woman will never get over what happened. these five incredible young men
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or women will never be. we think -- we know it in our hearts but it doesn't factor into the intellectual decision, i think. >> very well put. just going to say that i'd like to echo just a little built -- a little bit of that and the separation of the military and the civilian populace is something i talk about with veteran groups. it doesn't -- military side, if you don't live in north carolina or texas or southern california, you just don't see people in uniform. me growing up in buffalo, new york, about i got my rotc scholarship in 1995. that was a very different culture and time. it's not that long ago. but it's 9/11 did change so many things, and i thought i wanted to be an astronaut. i thought i was going to do all these other things, but i went
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to eod school between invasions of afghanistan and iraq, and i knew exactly what i was signing up for, and i wanted to do it anyway, and that would make me the same as young men between the age of 16 and 30 for the last five million years. and it doesn't -- the consequences just are not there. my wife says there's this part of the brain that has this self-preservation instinct and i was born without it, and guys i worked with were kind of the same. you try to keep yourself safe. you don't want to get shot. you're not looking to get killed. at it just you're willing to put yourself there for reasons that aren't necessarily clear until you're there. so the questions that you asked about, what about putting yourself in a position where somebody else decides if you live or die, those are good questions that i never asked myself. not even remotely. >> and i'll echo that.
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the amazing thing is we don't -- the military actually doesn't make wars. we go where you send us, and that's why you have us. we hope that there's noblity in the mission and somehow we are justified and when we are found not to be, and the movement for ten years -- i don't think anyone thinks that iraq was the right decision to make now, or a year after we were there. but we stayed there for ten years. >> i think vice president and secretary rumsfeld probably still think we should be there. >> for some people it was great idea. but the truth being, i voted and then i went to iraq. and there i was. and it mo longer -- like i said, we were kind of above politics in our hopefulness, and below
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politics in our utility. we weren't actively a part of the mechanism in a way which felt like this -- we had a hand in our fate. so, when i was there, i went back in 2005, to ramadi. by that point we knew we were wrong but my marines are being sent, and to not go was intolerable to me, and returning is when everything went wonderfully in terms of seeing my child, but terribly in losing my parents and losing friends thought the entire tour, the tour i was wounded. i left cold at 16 years. you get money after being there for 20 or life, but i walked, because i knew that that sense of responsibility was inescapable. i would never be able to not watch the television and see
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marine goes in, and if i were capable, if i were still able, to justify not going with them, despite the fact i had every reason in the world to justify not going with them. i had a wife and and a child and no one to help them in my absence. but the danger is, you begin to feel like you are somehow important to it. that somehow your abilities, scarce as they are, make you useful, and that to turn away that part of your life is to betray a great expectation, even though the marines don't care, one colonel in, one colonel out, one major in, one major out. the machinery repairs itself. there's a lot of platelets. but you have to imagine, for at least a moment, that you are
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unique, that somehow you bring something to that leadership position or to that capability that you have, whether you're a lance corporal and sniper or whatever, somehow you perfected something which is necessary in that machine, in that organization. and what you realize in war and what i realize, of course, the book address, is that death is just random. they just pick you. on the day that i read about, they just picked his vehicle, not mine. it wasn't because my vehicle was scary and they were afraid to touch it. at it because they picked his, and now he is dead. and now his family is without a father. and they'll never have that. not like that. not the same. i saw him leave. i saw the family destroyed. but they didn't. that's my part of his disappearance. and my whole book really is my absolute abhorrence of
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disappearance. i want to preserve. i want to save. if it's memories, fine, memory. if it's stone, fine. that's why i became a stone mason when i was young. took me all these years to realize why i was working in stone. it's all part of the feeling and war was the same thing and the great betrayer, because you just see it doesn't matter. that all that training, all the skills you have, it could just be that day and that's you. so, a long answer for how in some ways even the fate we choose, we don't have a hand in. >> thank you very much. [applause] ...